The cakes were good, and the family ate almost a whole one with relish. They were persuaded to finish it. But there were still nine left. By good salesmanship the industrialist-turned-cook induced the family to eat another, which they did to please him, but they had no relish for it. At this point Mr. Jones found himself confronted with the same problem which he had to face every day in his business — he would have to sell more. Inventory would have to be reduced, unit costs slashed. That could be done only by stimulating demand and increasing consumption. So he employed the cash rebate system, offering small William a dime to place his order for a large section of the third cake. William saw that it was a consumer’s market; he knew that such wonders are unnatural and impermanent, and could not resist stocking up. In the end, by using every known trick of the salesman’s art, Mr. Jones coaxed, wheedled, and bribed the family to dispose of the third cake. By this time everybody had arrived at a stage of acute discomfort and complete indifference to further entreaties, and he recognized the symptoms of a saturated market.
That night the family physician kept busy ministering to varying degrees of indigestion from mild to acute. The care with which Mrs. Jones had nurtured the family stood them in good stead, however, and all were fairly well recovered by morning.
At breakfast Mrs. Jones said to her husband: ‘Of course you realize the doctor’s fees will have to come out of your budget. It was all your fault.’
‘But I have no reserves set for that,’ replied Mr. Jones. ‘You know that before we changed places I always paid the doctor. His bill shouldn’t be charged against the household budget.’
‘Just the same,’ said Mrs. Jones, ‘I’m afraid you’ll have to add it to your production costs. Then next time you’ll know better than to glut the market.’
For once Mr. Jones had nothing to say, and his wife continued: ‘Fortunately, we shall not want any more cake for a long time to come. But when we do, you can bake ten, if you must, and then throw away nine. You can’t object to that. I understand that such methods are common in your economic world. “Maintaining the market,” — isn’t that what you call it? It won’t be the first time food has been destroyed to maintain the market. And, of course, you manufacturers are constantly producing goods that go to waste because of lack of demand. So I shouldn’t dare suggest that you bake only one cake merely because that is all we need. That would be heresy. It would be inefficient. It would be criminal failure to take advantage of “plant capacity.” The gas stove will easily hold ten cakes, and the same gas that will bake one will bake the others too. The electric mixer also represents an investment. You should not let it stand idle, for the overhead will ruin us. So go ahead with your plans, John. I just know you are going to do remarkable things in increasing and cutting unit costs — but don’t forget to dispose of your surplus.’
‘Getting sarcastic, aren’t you?’ replied Mr. Jones. ‘Well, perhaps I did make a mistake. Anyway, let’s forget want to be helpful, tell me do with these seven cakes from yesterday. It seems a pity to throw them away.’
Mrs. Jones was helpful. She took the remaining cakes in her car and distributed them among her friends. She knew that it would not be long before her friends would bring her a few glasses of jelly or some other homemade delicacy in return.
Mr. Jones did not like his wife’s solution of the problem, but he was not in a position to protest. Such friendly bartering of goods struck him as very primitive, a reversion to the economic methods of savage tribes. He thought of economics in terms of money, vast organizations, complicated financial structures, stocks and bonds, banking and credits, and a hundred and one other intricate devices. All these he contemplated with pride, as evidence of the lofty plane upon which our civilization moves. But in this imposing forest he lost sight of the trees. He forgot that the sole purpose of any economic system is to facilitate the manufacture and exchange of the necessities and luxuries of life, in order that life may be made easier and finer. Like many another captains of industry, he had come to consider business, not as a means toward this end, but as an end in itself. No wonder he was having difficulty accommodating himself to the elementary principles of household economy, the sole purpose of which is to promote the welfare and happiness of the family.